A child who has been sexually abused will benefit from clear guidelines that set the rules for their behavior. These kinds of rules provide the structure, comfort and security all children need to grow into healthy adults.
- Suggestive or obscene language is not allowed from anyone. It is sometimes a trigger for old feelings and does not create sexual respect.
- Do all you can to avoid objectification, which is seeing a person as an object, most typically a sexual object. The American culture is prevalent with pornography, sexualized media and the meeting of sexual desires with people outside of relationships.
- One possible message is: “every person, young and old, deserves to be respected and sex is a great and wonderful thing for adults, when they think and think about when to share their bodies”.
- All children, including the child who has been abused, need basic information about how they develop sexually. They also must know the terms for what was done to them so they aren’t surprised during sex ed at school or with their friends.
- They will benefit from an atmosphere in which it is OK to talk about sex.
- Appropriate words for body parts, such as penis, vagina, breasts, and buttocks, will give the child helpful words to use to describe themselves, especially if they have to describe their abuse.
- Children need to learn that they have the right to assertively say “no” when someone touches them ANY WHERE or in ANY WAY they do not like. Help them to practice this.
- A child should NEVER be pressured into touching someone or showing affection if they are not comfortable.
- Everyone has a right to privacy. Children should be taught to knock when a door is closed and adults need to role model the same behavior when entering their child’s room.
- Reinforce that “It is NOT OK to look at other people’s private parts or show your parts to someone else unless there is a medical reason”.
- Children also deserve to have privacy with their thoughts, feelings, personal belongings, personal space and time. Remember, this privacy is different than secrets.
- Children who have been abused deserve the right to privacy when determining who needs to know about their history. If parents need to talk about the event for support, make sure it is with the child’s approval.
- Make it clear that any “secret games”, particularly with adults, are not allowed. Tell children if an adult suggests such a game, they should tell you immediately.
- Help the child understand the difference between secrecy and privacy. This relates to gossip, tattling, reporting abuse and sharing feelings.
- Help children differentiate between feelings in your body and feelings that are emotions. It is normal to have all kinds of feelings, including sexual feelings. However, everyone does not always act on all the feelings he or she has.
- Make sure the child knows how to react to feeling aroused emotionally or if their body is aroused and help them to excuse themselves from difficult situations.
- Some children need very specific instructions on how to distract themselves when aroused.
- Children who have been abused need to know that if their skin/body parts were aroused during the abuse that they are still NOT responsible for the abuse and it does NOT mean that they liked it. It is possible that their offender has already convinced them otherwise.
- No one should touch another person without permission. Everyone should ask for hugs.
- Do not allow them to sit on the laps of adults, as this is a common behavior that offenders encourage and they may be more likely to be abused by others in the future.
- A person’s private parts should not be touched except during a medical examination or in the case of young children, if they need help with bathing or toileting.
- Help your child understand that “It is OK to touch yourself if you are in private and it does not interfere with other fun things like playing with friends”.
- Children need lots of NON SEXUAL touch. The need to feel affection, friendship, caring and love in non sexual ways. Please consult with the child’s therapist to identify what types of touch will be the most helpful.
Wrestling and Tickling
- Tickling and wrestling is not allowed.
- As common and normal as these childhood behaviors are, they are often tinged with sexual overtones. They can put the weaker child in an overpowered and uncomfortable or humiliating position. Touching of private parts can be “accidental” or not accidental and justified as tickling.
Bedrooms and Bathrooms
- These two locations are often prime stimuli for children and will sometimes trigger traumatic memories. In general, children who have had sexual acts forced on them are probably confused about sexuality it is recommended that they have separate bedrooms and bathroom time.
- It is not advisable to bring a child who has been sexually abused into an adult’s bed. Cuddling may be over stimulating and misinterpreted. A safer place to cuddle may be the living room couch.
- If a child is scared at night, work out a plan to help them feel safe without sleeping with another person.
- It is a good idea for family members to be conscious of what they wear outside of the bedroom. Seeing others in their underwear or pajamas may be over-stimulating to a child.
- The goal is to create the feeling of sexual respect with clothing choices.
- You can send the message that a woman’s worth is based on more than just looking “hot” or “cute”.
Being Alone With One Other Person
- Sometimes children who have been abused behave seductively or aggressively, they need direct supervision. This means they are never alone with another child and sometimes this includes older children and other adults.
- This eliminates the possibility of false allegations or confusion about the intent of a behavior.
- Provide coaching and feedback to your child as they learn to interact with others.
- Babysitting is a choice that needs careful consideration. Ask your therapist for advice.